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Natalie Elphicke MP for Dover and Deal calls for tougher stance on asylum seekers crossing the Channel and accuses the French of 'waving them through'


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A Kent MP has demanded a "fresh approach" to the level of asylum seekers crossing the Channel, suggesting they are being waved through by the French with a "cheery Bon Voyage".

Natalie Elphicke, who represents Dover and Deal, launched the urgent call for action in a pair of tweets this morning, with the total number of arrivals yesterday thought to be 700-plus.

Natalie Elphicke next one of the boats used by asylum seekers. Picture: Twitter/@NatalieElphicke
Natalie Elphicke next one of the boats used by asylum seekers. Picture: Twitter/@NatalieElphicke

"This is simply outrageous," she tweeted. "People who are perfectly safe in France brazenly break into Britain day after day.

"First it was a few, then hundreds and now heading towards a thousand in a single day. The French just waving them through with a cheery Bon Voyage."

Mrs Elphicke followed up her first post with a rallying call for a tougher response.

"If the French won’t stop the small boats then we need to," she said. "By turning boats back, making returns and taking firm control of our borders.

"I fully support emergency legislation to do that, if that is needed. This needs a fresh approach urgently."

Her criticism comes after five children were among 158 people brought to Dover on Sunday having made the journey from France in four small boats.

They were the first known crossings of the Dover Strait for two weeks after a spell of bad weather.

It is understood Sunday’s arrivals brought the total number of people who have crossed to the UK aboard small boats and dinghies this year to more than 12,500.

The record daily total was set on August 21 when 828 asylum seekers were picked up.

Last month, French authorities opened a manslaughter investigation after a 27-year-old man from Eritrea died when the boat carrying him and more than 30 others sank.

Asylum seekers on a Border Force Search and Rescue boat in Dover. Picture Sam Lennon
Asylum seekers on a Border Force Search and Rescue boat in Dover. Picture Sam Lennon

The Home Office has repeatedly vowed to make the journey across the English Channel “unviable” but the number of crossings has continued to rise.

Crossings in 2021 have already passed last year’s total of 8,417 and the figure continues to rise.

Despite this, the UK continues to see far fewer boat arrivals and asylum claims than many of its European counterparts.

Meanwhile, Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine Channel threat commander, said: “This unacceptable rise in dangerous crossings is being driven by criminal gangs and a surge in illegal migration across Europe.

“We’re determined to target the criminals at every level. So far, we have secured nearly 300 arrests, 65 convictions and prevented more than 10,000 migrant attempts.

“A large number of people want to come to this country, and we are doing everything we can to encourage the French to do the necessary and impede their passage.”

“But there is more to do. The government’s New Plan for Immigration is the only credible way to fix the broken asylum system, breaking the business model of criminal gangs and welcoming people through safe and legal routes.”

Earlier this year, an agreement was announced to more than double the number of police patrolling French beaches.

As part of the deal, the government pledged to give France £54 million to support its efforts to stop small boat crossings.

Ms Patel has since told MPs she is prepared to withhold the promised funds unless there is an improvement in the number of people intercepted by French authorities, government sources confirmed to the PA news agency.

It is understood that none of the money has been paid so far.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Boris Johnson said the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, was “working around the clock” to make sure France blocks people seeking asylum from reaching Britain.

He said: “A large number of people want to come to this country, and we are doing everything we can to encourage the French to do the necessary and impede their passage.”

The Home Office has been asked for confirmation of yesterday's small boat arrivals.

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